Archive for the ‘Jean AAR’ Category

Classic Romances Part 3: Romance Novels 101

Friday, May 4th, 2012

largelectureclassLast month I blogged about class romance authors I wish would come back; in particular, I mentioned Judy Cuevas’ Bliss, which I’d recently read, and how it would be on my reading list for Romance Novels 101, assuming such a course ever existed (and that they would pull me out of the ranks of peons to teach it, of course).

So I decided to do some digging, and Googled “romance novels course.”  And lo and behold, they exist!  Kind of.  The London School of Journalism, NYU, and Ryerson (in Toronto) offer romance novel creative writing, and some popular lit courses have romance components.


J.K. Rowling, Pottermore, and eBooks

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

01-pottermore2jpgIt’s no news that eBooks caught 99% of the population unawares.  (Check out the article link in the next paragraph – boy, have we come a long way.)  I’d say most authors got with the times, and most have now been e-publishing current books as well as backlists for a few years.

Except for one writer: Joanne Kathleen Rowling, aka the Woman Who Can Do Whatever the Hell She Wants.  Seven years ago, she officially refused to make the Harry Potter series available as eBooks, despite rampant piracy – until last year, when she announced the arrival of Pottermore, a “unique and free-to-use Web site which builds an exciting online experience” around Harry Potter, and produced in partnership with Sony (according to the press release).  Ten months later, Pottermore opened to the public, and hoo boy, the windmills start again.

What is Pottermore?  It’s two things.  First and foremost, it’s an online portal through which you can relive the Harry Potter books, see chapters and scenes gently animated, interact with the Harry Potter universe, discover characters’ backstories and behind-the-scenes tidbits, and engage with others in the Pottermore community.  You can go shopping on Diagon Alley, collect galleons, magical artefacts, and Chocolate Frog Cards, duel with other wizards – oh, and you answer two nifty quizzes to get a wand and be sorted into houses.  (My wand, by the way, is a 10-inch unyielding ash with unicorn core, and I am now officially in Gryffindor.)


Pandora’s Box: 50 Shades of Grey

Friday, April 20th, 2012

50For those who’ve remained blissfully unaware, 50 Shades of Grey is the latest publishing phenom. Discussed obsessively everywhere from the Today show to Newsweek, the plot can be teased in just a few sentences: Christian Grey is a 27-year old billionaire in modern day Seattle who proposes an unusual relationship to graduating student, Anastasia Steele.  He offers her a contract in which she would agree to serve as sub to his dom every weekend for a period of months.

We decided to subject the book to the scrutiny of our Pandora.  This time it’s Sandy AAR and Jean AAR who open Pandora’s Box.

Jean AAR: I really wasn’t sure what to expect, considering all the buzz, but there also seemed to be a lot of hyperbole in either direction – either it was the greatest thing since the Pill or the worst thing ever published.  So I kind of took it in stride.  If I had to grade it, I’d give it a C+/B-.  Parts of it are weirdly compelling, but other parts are just downright amateur.  Still, it’s not really any different from hundreds of other romance novels.

Sandy AAR: I agree.  It’s a romance novel.  I kind of land in the B- territory.  I thought it was kind of like an HP in a weird way. Mysterious gazallionaire meets virtuous student and sweeps her away to his lair yadda, yadda, yadda.  But then there’s the sex.  Which is actually pretty raunchy.

JW: Do you think the raunchiness gets tiring, or becomes unnecessary, especially in the second book?  I haven’t read the third book yet, but I feel that if you took out two-thirds of the sex, edited heavily, and compressed, there’d be a B/B+ in there somewhere.


Classic Romances Part 2: I Wish You’d Come Back

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

510Rw+dYaaL._SL500_AA300_I find this year my romance reading has been split firmly into three camps: Review books, Must Buy This New Release books, and Yes! They Came In The Mail! classics.  In the latter case, Better World Books is my absolute bestest pal – free shipping, frequent coupon codes, and good prices.  Only thing missing is a price drop watch.

Anyway, I’ve gotten my hands on some books that I’ve been yearning to read after reading about them, hearing about them, and not being able to find them because they’re so bloody hard to find.  The Windflower is one; Jane Ashford is another.  But the one that I just finished last night, at the grand ole’ hour of 2:47am, and the spur for today’s blog, is Bliss by Judy Cuevas.

I snatched it up when it appeared on Better World Books for $5.95.  Would it have been my first choice to read about a “washed-up artistic genius who never met a drug he didn’t like,” and a “materialistic, ambitious, upstart” heroine known as Miss Seven-Minutes-of-Heaven?  Um, no, not really, to tell the truth.


Endearments – Yea or Nay?

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

imagesDearest, darling readers: I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine’s Day with your loved ones.  My day began quite unexceptionally, at school with those sweet children in my class, and all I planned to do when I got home was start Gaelen Foley’s One Night of Sin.  But guess what, cupcakes?  Before long I was sighing and shaking my head.  There was one thing, O Best Beloveds, that was driving me to near insanity – much as I am probably doing to you currently, my poor angels.  And that was the proliferation of endearments.

I have a hard time dealing with them, especially the flowery ones, and especially when they’re used often.  One Night of Sin has them in abundance and I find them nauseating.  But are they nauseating because it’s actually overkill, or is it just because I’m not used to them?


Book Digital Copies

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

It is now almost one year since I bought my Nook Color.  Some things have changed – I definitely access more books than I used to, and some of it (maybe 30-40%) is digital.  But I confess I’m still primarily a paper reader.  For me, it’s a matter of comfort, and I just can’t use the Nook Color as my primary reading source.

But my friend came over the other day and looked at my shelves and shelves of books.  And she said, “Wow. You have a lot of books.”  She’s not wrong – guesstimating, I’d say I have about 350-500 romance novels, depending on whether I have random stacks hidden away somewhere (which is probably a yes), and most of which I’ve accumulated in the last two years.  And I still gain about 4-5 romances a month.

Well, what if my house burns down?  Am I going to have to lose all those books?  It seems stupid not to take advantage of the digital age and just get eBooks.  I’m sure most of us agree that uniformity amongst the publishers has far to go, but the convenience, pricing, and durability of an eBook make total sense at this point.  And yet why shouldn’t I buy a paper copy if I want, especially since they’re still available, and it’s what works for me?

Then it hit me: Digital copies.  They don’t do it for CDs, because it’s legal to buy a CD then make a digital copy yourself.  But they do it for DVDs, because it’s illegal to rip a DVD, even if you own it.  So you pay a little more, get extra features or Blu-Ray, and get licensed to download a digital copy of your DVD.  And you’ll have it for all eternity.  (Frankly, the legality of ripping CDs versus DVDs doesn’t make much sense to me, but whatever.  They’re both on their way out.)


My Beef Against Contemporaries

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

10553126It’s no secret that I like historicals.  No, change that.  I love historicals.  Yeah, I complain about the proliferation of Regencies.  But when all’s said and done, I look at my list of treasured books, and the vast majority are historicals.

My second preference would be for paranormals and fantasy.  Contemporaries, I’m afraid, are a very, very distant third.  I used to think this was due to several reasons, like the fact that historicals are my first love and that I love the escape into a separate world.  And those are still true.  But the other day, I had an epiphany, which, frankly, I should have had a long time ago: One of the main reasons I don’t read as many contemporaries as I do historicals is that 99.9% of contemporary characters are white and Christian.

My issue isn’t that I don’t qualify as either white or Christian.  After all, human emotions are the same all around the world.  And heck, I’m 100% Chinese, and I identify more with Eve Dallas than characters in The Joy Luck Club.  (Not an exaggeration.)


Drumroll: The First Annual Reformed Brat Contest

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

paris-hilton-001Okay, I’m joking about the annual contest.  But this is a blog about reformed brats.

They say that reformed rakes make the best husbands.  Well, if that’s the case, then reformed brats should make the best wives.

After all, they’re both people you should stay far away from.  Arguably, they’re both inherently ill-mannered and immature, and probably selfish and spoiled.  And they’re both people that for some reason just attract the opposite sex.  (Come on, Paris Hilton?  Hugh Grant?  The worst of the kind, but very, very attractive in their own way.)  And maybe, just maybe, the right person will bring out the best in them.

I tell myself that.  But honestly, brats don’t do it for me.  (And this includes Paris Hilton.)  I asked my colleagues on this issue, and most of the time I’m with Pat Henshaw on this, who can’t stand brats.  Ever.  But Heather Stanton makes a good point, that there’s a line between acceptable and unacceptable bratty behavior, like “a 20-year-old heroine behaving in a self-centered manner vs. a 35-year-old woman behaving like a spoiled, petulant child.”  The former, Heather considers fairly realistic; the latter, pathetic.  And isn’t it preferable to at least have a heroine with a strong personality (even if we wouldn’t want to befriend her) rather than bland mush?


Romantic Comedies

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Sabrina-WilderSo apparently, winter is the time when we especially want a nice snuggly romantic comedy.  To me, this makes heaps of sense (warm fuzzy feeling = warmth period), but being generally attracted to romance in general, I watch my rom coms in all kinds of weather.  After all, they work when it’s sunny.  They work when it’s rainy.  Whether it’s cloudy and dry, or blistery and cold, I love romantic comedies.

I’m pretty stringent, though, in my requirements, and I stick very closely to the words “romantic” and “comedy.”  Mate, if it’s not funny, it’s not a comedy.  And romantic is not synonymous with sappy.  I have to simultaneously not gag and be able to see this couple together ten years in the future.  And as with romance novels, I find it pretty hard to enjoy a romantic comedy if I don’t sympathize with the protagonist, especially if we’re talking about a heroine.

The best romantic comedies are 90 minutes of zinger and fun, and just like the best romance novels, they leave me happy and feeling good about life and love.  With that in mind, here is a list of my favourite romantic comedies, in no particular order:


Random House Fall Preview: Toronto

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Ah, the perks of working at Chapters.  During the summer, our store manager told us that all Chapters employees were invited to the Random House Fall Preview at the Hyatt Regency.  Now, I don’t know about you, but this sounded pretty sweet.  And they’d send us free books!  Can’t say no to that.  So last Sunday, I headed down to King Street West.  If I had been doing a live feed, here’s what it might have looked like:

Several days prior – Receive an email confirming registration and asking us to bring a pen, since they won’t be distributing them.  Okay.­­­­

11:00 – Trying to decide what to wear.  Event is at posh hotel, with publishing head honchos, and Michael Ondaatje – the Michael Ondaatje.  And it’s raining.  Boots or heels, boots or heels?  Settle on black pencil skirt and Franco Sarto maroon heels, which are comfy but don’t see much sunlight because they’re heels.

12:15 – Walk past the super discreet Hyatt entrance three times before I realize that it’s the hotel, and I only really see it because I go through Starbucks.  Vaguely intimidated by heaps of shiny marble, leather cushions, running water, and really nice bathrooms.

12:20 – Head to second-floor ballroom and register, which entails getting a brochure and putting down my name, email, and Chapters store number.  First inkling that it’s not quiiiiiite what I’d imagined.